Team Recaps: Chicago Blackhawks
Steve Kournianos | 11/12/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
Fans may be growing tiresome of a rebuild that was unofficially extended into the coming season, but the Blackhawks are starting to accumulate impressive pieces who are close to becoming regulars in the lineup. Joining promising center Kirby Dach and playmaking defenseman Adam Boqvist is 2020 first-rounder Lukas Reichel (pictured), who Chicago drafted 17th overall from the German elite league. Prior to the shutdown, the Hawks were expected to be drafting closer to Tim Stutzle territory before a play-in round upset of Edmonton knocked them out of lottery contention. But Reichel is more than worthy of having his name mentioned in the same breath as recent draftees who were taken in the top 10.
It looked as if drafting a high-end forward was a strategy the Hawks reserved for the early rounds, as choosing Reichel and the drafting of NTDP winger Landon Slaggert were followed by four defensemen and speedy overage center Chad Yetman. Loading up on blue line prospects has been the norm in Chicago the last few drafts — make that 20 defensemen taken since 2015.
Lukas Reichel, Left Wing (17th overall)
A strategy that involved the drafting of defensemen with three consecutive first-round picks between 2017 and 2018 has now shifted towards the offense, where Reichel joins center Dach and Alex DeBrincat at the top of Chicago’s list of premier young forwards. Reichel is a mature young man who certainly knows what do with the puck in both open ice and in close quarters. His goal-scoring abilities and stickhandling will become an instant hit once Blackhawks fans get to see him participate in the prospect camps.
Drew Commesso, Goalie (46th overall)
One of the unfortunate circumstances for all 2020 draft-eligible goalies expected to go after Round 1 was that phenom Yaroslav Askarov was going to get the overwhelming majority of attention from the mainstream. Although Askarov certainly deserves the accolades in addition to his selection at 11th overall by Nashville, the truth is that Commesso wasn’t too far behind him; not just in potential but draft-year resume as well. Granted, Commesso did play for a tight-checking team and much like Askorov, had more than a fair share of games in which his workload was light. But there’s a ton of big-game upside in the Boston University-bound prospect who bested Askarov at the under-18 Five Nations tournament last February in addition to holding his own against several top NCAA programs. History says that the best goalie from a given draft class usually comes from outside the first round, which is why the league should keep a close watch on Commesso’s progress; not only for his No. 1 pedigree but also for his clean technical understanding and competitiveness.
Landon Slaggert, Wing/Center (79th overall)
A sneaky-good contributor who maintained a top-six role for the NTDP, Slaggert plays a tough 200-foot game that was built for college hockey, and potentially higher levels. Simply put, Slaggert isn’t a whole lot of fun to play against, and his mix of physicality and finesse should serve him well when he suits up for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. He slotted 81st in our final ranking so naturally we like this pick, but it probably will be at least three years in college until Slaggert’s real potential can be identified; reason being he has moments when he plays like an unstoppable powerhouse and might actually turn out far more accomplished at the NHL level than initially thought.
Wyatt Kaiser, Defenseman (81st overall)
The first defender taken by the Blackhawks in this draft was a darn good one, as Kaiser spearheaded Andover to a No. 1 ranking in Minnesota’s Class 2A and should immediately make an impact when he suits up for Minnesota-Duluth. Smooth, poised, and incredibly reliable, Kaiser was drafted right in our wheelhouse (we had him ranked No. 84). He plays the game with a lot of enthusiasm and is the one non-top-31 prospect from this class who you should bank on for turning heads the fastest.
Michal Krutil, Defenseman (110th overall)
Another one of the aforementioned No. 1 rearguards, Krutil was the go-to guy for both the Czechs at the under-18 level and for his club team in the top Czech junior league. Krutil is big, strong, mobile, and versatile, as he was used in every situation to include the primary quarterback on the power play. It was after this pick when I jokingly suspected the Hawks were using our list for their draft board, as Krutil (ranked No. 113) joined Slaggert and Kaiser as Chicago picks taken within three slots of where we had them ranked.
Isaak Phillips, Defenseman (141st overall)
I really understood the Phillips pick even though a ton of scoring forwards were still on the board (notably Ryan Francis, Pavel Novak, and Benjamin Baumgartner). Phillips was a major problem solver for Sudbury and did his best to cover for partner Jack Thompson (No. 93 to Tampa) when the latter would attempt forays deep into the opposing zone. Phillips himself is no slouch in the puck-rushing department, but his physical game and slot coverage are far more impactful on a shift-to-shift basis.
Chad Yetman, Center (172nd overall)
I’m usually leery about drafting double-overagers out of Canadian major junior, only because they have such a low hit rate and usually fail to get a contract. But Yetman is an interesting story in that he was not a heralded OHL draft pick (196th overall in 2016) yet improved in each of his three seasons with Erie and finished last year as one of the top two-way centers in the league. He was used in all situations and improved his faceoffs from 44 percent in 2019 to 48 percent his last season. The AHL should be an eye-opening experience but it’s hard to count a kid who worked hard to become the top center in a league like the OHL.
Louis Crevier, Defenseman (188th overall)
The tallest player in the draft at 6-foot-8, Crevier was a vacuum cleaner for Rimouski but also showcased soft hands, a bullet for a shot, and quick feet in tight quarters. He too was a draft overager (2001-born), so consider him even more of a project than you initially had. It’s easy to fixate on the size but Crevier generally displays poise under pressure and makes smart decisions when moving the puck up the ice.